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Bishop's Stortford Independent Parkinality columnist Julie Walker on how to get support and exercise when living with Parkinson's disease during the coronavirus pandemic

Parkinality columnist Julie Walker, of Bishop's Stortford, writes not about parking but about living with Parkinson's disease in her 50s

Covid-19 is the new kid on the block. Global resources and experts are, understandably, focused on finding a vaccine for this highly contagious disease.

Unfortunately, other diseases are still available. Having an existing medical condition whilst living through the pandemic is not easy. Many research projects have been delayed and support services paused.

The Bishop's Stortford Parkinson's Support Group continues to meet online using Zoom. Ideally everyone should have access to the support they need during these difficult times, but not everyone has access to a computer or the internet. Please contact us to discuss other ways of keeping in touch.

Many people who do have a computer and internet access only use it for shopping and watching cats falling off of radiators. Please contact us and we will guide you through setting up and using Zoom.

Everyone is different. Some people might prefer a chat on the phone or in a socially-distanced smaller group. Please make contact and we will see how we can help.

It would be great to hear from old and new members. You can contact the support group by emailing Claire Uwins at claire.uwins@icloud.com or calling her on 07595 674241.

We're an eclectic group of different ages and interests, and welcome everyone affected by Parkinson's.

Another challenge during this pandemic and the lockdown has been keeping active. I have found that many exercise classes have moved online. Before starting a new exercise class, check with a medical professional that you are fit to do so. It is important everyone exercises at their own pace and stops if anything doesn't feel right.

Popping for Parkinson's on Zoom is an easy-going class with no pressure – everyone moves at their own pace and within their own capabilities. Simone, who takes the class, ensures that everyone feels involved. The music is funky and the class is fun.

Popping for Parkinson's (42619362)
Popping for Parkinson's (42619362)

So what is popping? Popping is isolating muscles and making them contract, or pop.

Confused? Apologies for the image I am about to put in your mind. Imagine an 80s body builder making his biceps dance or pop to the music – 'da... dada... dada... da... da da da da... da... dada...'. Now erase that image from your mind.

Popping for Parkinson's is nothing like that. There is no fake tan or body building muscles. However, the concentration required to get the brain to communicate with the muscles is the same principle.

This is a challenge for people living with Parkinson's disease (PD). The declining dopamine production in the brain disrupts the messages travelling to the muscles, resulting in movement problems. I find the class both a mental and physical challenge. Find it at www.poppingforparkinsons.com/popping.html .

The European Parkinson's Disease Association have put together exercise videos on YouTube specifically for people living with Parkinson's.

These exercise videos combine movement, voice and cognition. With names like The Body Speaks and Spells and Punchalicious, the videos are fun and varied and the enthusiasm is infectious.

EPDA ExerciseCast (42619360)
EPDA ExerciseCast (42619360)

These classes are great for challenging the brain to multitask. For example, dancing whilst performing simple word games. This is important practise for people with PD because symptoms often mean that multitasking is a challenge. This is because the concentration involved in performing even a simple movement means that trying to do something else at the same time can be extremely difficult, such as walking and talking.

Search for ExerciseCast on YouTube or visit www.epda.eu.com/latest/resources/epda-exercisecast for more information.

Every so often I think it is useful to define PD for new readers.

The Cure Parkinson's Trust's scientific definition: "Parkinson's symptoms are mainly due to the loss of dopamine-containing nerve cells in the basal ganglia area of the brain which control movement. Low levels of dopamine slow the body's movement and make day-to-day activities difficult."

My simple/simplistic/silly definition: Aunt Dora has posted you a letter telling you to do a star jump but has run out of stamps. No stamp means you don't get the letter telling you to star jump. Now replace 'Aunt Dora' with 'the brain' and the word 'stamp' with 'dopamine'.

Check the Indie for local support services during these changing times and stay safe.

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